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(From left) United Sikkim FC founders Arjun Rai, Bhaichung Bhutia and Sherap Lepcha
(From left) United Sikkim FC founders Arjun Rai, Bhaichung Bhutia and Sherap Lepcha|EastMojo image
SIKKIM

Bhaichung Bhutia shuts down former I-League club United Sikkim FC

The football icon decides to call it a day in order to ‘focus on grassroots football’, to avoid ‘conflict of interests’ over his association with Sikkim Football Association

Dichen Ongmu

Dichen Ongmu

Gangtok: One of the renowned and popular football clubs of the state -- United Sikkim Football Club (USFC) has shut shop. The announcement was made by its founder, Indian football icon Bhaichung Bhutia, during a press conference on Sunday.

“It is indeed a hard and painful decision for us but with great pain we are making this announcement. It is a unanimous decision by the founding members. The two main reasons of shutting down the club are to focus on grassroots football and to avoid the conflict of interests between Sikkim Football Association (SFA) and football clubs,” said Bhutia.

Bhutia, who is now a part of SFA, added that at times of taking any major decisions, he found himself caught between SFA and football clubs. “At the hour of so many football issues doing the rounds in the state, this news might add more fuel and sound negative but this step is taken as a necessity to improve the football scenario here,” said Bhutia.

He further highlighted the journey of the 15-year-old club which was started in 2004 by three friends, all football enthusiasts, with an aim to promote Sikkim football and local footballers.

Bhutia recalled his greatest moment to qualify and play I-League in 2012. He further recalled the challenges and difficulties faced by the club which, he feels, was more challenging than the hardships he faced during his football career.

When asked about reviving the club in the future, Bhutia replied: “We might think of reviving later but only after we leave SFA, so that our interests won’t collide.” He further thanked all the fans, coaches, players and supporters for being a part of this wonderful journey with USFC.

Arjun Rai, co-founder USFC, highlighted on how the club was formed to provide platform to the aspiring footballers in the state during the time when there were only few football clubs. “We used to see innumerable players practising in the stadium but due to lack of football clubs not all used to get the platform and opportunity to showcase their talent. That was the very moment we felt the need of USFC,” he said.

Sherap Lepcha, the third co-founder USFC, expressed his sadness over shutting down of the club which took years of hard work and dedication to achieve the brand name.
“USFC introduced Sikkim in the national map of football. They are plenty of players who did well and are still doing great. We are proud of them and hope to bring in more players from Sikkim in future through grassroots level,” said Lepcha.

United Sikkim FC: At a glance

* Formed in 2004, it turned into a professional club in 2011.

* Played I-League accommodating 14-18 local players in the team.

* Komal Thatal from Sikkim, who played U-17 World Cup, was spotted by U-14 Indian team academy at Manchester Cup in Kolkata sent by USFC.

* Sandesh Jhingan, current Indian national team player, is also a product of USFC.

* 4-time state premier division champion, 2-time winner of Independence Day Cup, winner of ONGC Cup and LD Kazi Cup.

* Only team to participate in IFA Shield Durand Cup.

* USFC sponsored state sports hostel with Nike kits worth Rs 30 lakh for 3 years.

* USFC was the only club in India sponsored by sports giants like Nike and Lotto.